National Highways is set to miss road safety targets.

The warning comes in he latest annual report from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

Its report on safety on England’s strategic road network (SRN) says that National Highways has achieved reductions but will fail to meet the 2025 target.

More needed

There has been a 38% reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured on the SRN since the 2005 to 2009 average baseline. However, the report says it is not on course to meet its 2025 target of a 50% reduction.

ORR is calling for a “robust plan” to be produced by the end of March 2024. This needs to set out how it aims to meet the ongoing 2025 target.

“We are now requiring a detailed plan from the company on what additional interventions are needed,” states  Feras Alshaker, ORR’s director of performance and planning. He adds that “time is running out”, and urgent planning and action is needed.

No time to rest

The report acknowledges that stopped vehicle detection performance on all-lane running sections of smart motorways has improved.

New data shows that performance targets for the three essential safety metrics ORR reported on last year are being met. These include the average time taken to detect a stopped vehicle on an all-lane running smart motorway.

However, ORR says that the company must now focus on expanding its analysis and understanding to further optimise stopped vehicle detection performance.

Commenting on the improvements, Alshaker says “National Highways needs to clearly set out how it plans to make better use of the data it collects to inform further performance improvements”.

Getting there

National Highways’ says its action plan, set out after the 2022 safety report, is now being implemented.  It includes improvements to the performance of key operational technology assets like CCTV, signs and signals on all-lane running smart motorways.

ORR argues that there is still more work to do. It believes the company must continue to work towards its aim of 97% availability for key operational technology assets by March 2025. At present, these range between 91% and 97% availability.

“ORR will continue to hold National Highways to account on what it needs to deliver,” comments Alshaker. He adds that this will “help ensure the strategic road network continues to further improve for its users”.

The middle lane

Following the publication of its own progress report on smart motorway safety, National Highways chief executive, Nick Harris, said: “Safety is our highest priority and we are committed to further improving all lane running motorways.

“We have completed key upgrades to improve the performance of technology to detect stopped vehicles, and today we have set out the next sections of motorway to benefit from the programme to install more than 150 extra emergency areas to give drivers added reassurance.

“We are also continuing to invest £105 million to improve the resilience of our operational technology systems.”